Last month the Australian Reads team spent two days in Canberra talking to parliamentarians about reading in Australia. We carried the message that reading for pleasure underpins the nation’s social and economic capacity, and that more support is needed to encourage Australians to read.
A few key stats captured attention:
- The number of young people reading for pleasure has dropped since 2017
- Fewer Australian adults report reading at least one book in a year
- 44% of Australians have low or very low literacy levels
- Declining literacy raises the risk of social isolation and welfare dependency
Arguing for a national strategy to build a reading nation, the team left with the following impressions: our parliamentarians and their staff are readers, and new messages about curiosity-based reading are overdue and welcome in Canberra.
Reading intersects with a number of other government concerns: mental health, literacy and educational outcomes, ageing and social isolation; and the links between these areas and reading would be of interest.
Children’s books a hit at Parliament House party
As part of this Canberra visit, the inaugural event for the Parliamentary Friends of Australian Children’s Storytelling saw the book industry champion children’s books and authors to over 300 attendees.
The event, established by co-chairs Luke Gosling OAM MP and Warren Entsch MP, served as a platform for parliamentarians to engage with creative industries covering books, theatre, screen, and music, focusing on Australian children’s storytelling.
Amidst competition from the Wiggles, children’s writers and books were placed centre stage by Australia Reads, alongside the APA, the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) and the Copyright Agency.
A sizeable Australia Reads stand drew crowds throughout the event, featuring hundreds of contemporary Australian children’s and young adult titles gifted by Australia Reads partner publishers from the Australian Publishers Association.
Australia Reads is committed to continuing to advocate for the importance and value of reading to government, and looks forward to future events of this nature.